Monday, 29 October 2007

Embracing emotion

I slipped up and broke my cardinal rule at work today. There's someone at work who, to me, is a toxic person. So many times in the past, interacting with this person has left me feeling unsettled, upset, worried, angry, hurt, belittled, and worthless. Having resolved not to let my interactions with her go beyond yes and no (and even then as a strictly business-only last resort), today I slipped. Yes, we spoke beyond the necessary. It was a stupid thing to do. As usual I have come away from it feeling bad about myself, bad about my job, worried about the future, and in general just uneasy. Speaking to this person seems to be an invitation for her to unleash all her very critical thoughts about staff, the way things are run. I agree with a lot of it, but I never come away feeling like any good has been accomplished as a result of these interactions, on a personal or work level.

I don't know why I did it. I know it doesn't pay to talk to this person. Every time I do it, I leave myself open to this result.

Okay, time to step back. An emotion has arisen in me. I'm examining it. It is not the direct result of any particular words that were said, but seems to have sprung from a complex web of my own perceptions. What she said and what I heard were not the same thing. I catapulted directly from her words to my own responses to them, and the springboard was my own perception, the stuff that I brought with me to this conversation. I am not skilled enough to communicate with this person. I feel certain that her reality and mine are completely different--she's not looking at things the way I do. She wouldn't be able to predict how it made me feel any more than I have a clue as to how it might have made her feel. I can only guess, and as my guesses are based on my own perceptions, I'm sure they're probably way off. At this point, it doesn't really matter anyway, I think. What matters is preservation of peace, peace for myself and peace for others.

The Buddha said,

If you know anything that is hurtful and untrue, don't say it.

If you know anything that is helpful and untrue, don't say it.

If you know anything that is hurtful and true, don't say it.

If you know anything that is helpful and true, find the right time.

Looking back on this conversation, I don't see that anything that was said on either side was exactly helpful and true. It was mostly opinion, speculation and worse. It was not the right time for speaking.

Most of the time, it is the time for silence.

Must remember that.

Why call this entry 'Embracing Emotion'? Because instead of allowing this emotion to bowl me over, I have sat with it. I have breathed through it. I have allowed it to exist and I have watched over it. I have stepped aside from it and tried to see it. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, I have cradled my emotion as if it were a howling baby, and my mindfulness has helped to transform it.

All mental formations and all physiological formations in us are sensitive to mindfulness. If mindfulness is there, embracing your body, your body will transform. If mindfulness is there, embracing your anger or despair, then they, too, will be transformed. According to the Buddha and according to our experience, anything embraced by the energy of mindfulness will undergo a transformation.

At the moment you become angry, you tend to believe that your misery has been created by another person. You blame him or her for all your suffering. But by looking deeply, you may realize that the seed of anger in you is the main cause of your suffering. Then we will stop blaming the other person for causing all our suffering. We realize she or he is only a secondary cause.

~Thich Nhat Hanh, from Anger

If I hadn't embraced this emotion, I would now be enslaved to it, ruled by it, and seeking to blame someone for it. Looking deeply, I see that the fears and worry brought on by this conversation are all illusion from inside me. They are not real. They do not exist.

May all beings be at ease.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wishI could give you some posative support as I know the feelings you describe so well, but I know you are stonger than you think. You are in my thoughts.
Jane N